Bill proposes release of man serving life for pot - KCTV5

Bill proposes release of man serving life for pot

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JEFFERSON CITY, MO (KCTV) -

There's a new bill filed at the Missouri State House that would legislate the freedom of a Sedalia man locked up for pot.

"I'm not the animal they think I am," said Jeff Mizanskey, an inmate at the state prison in Jefferson City.

He's the only inmate locked up in Missouri for life without parole for marijuana.

"Disbelief of being here," Mizanskey said. "I know there's a lot of people in here for drugs, hard drugs, they are walking out."

To try and understand Mizanskey more one must go back to 1993 when police watched a drug deal go down in a Sedalia motel. It was Mizanskey's third pot felony and the court issued the harshest penalty possible.

"I thought it was important to get that firsthand knowledge and look him in the eye," said State Rep. Shamed Dogan, a Republican for Missouri's 98th District.

Dogan recently visited Mizanskey behind bars. It was after that visit that Dogan filed HB 978, a bill to release the inmate. By phone Wednesday Dogan told KCTV5 that the state is wasting money by keeping the man, who is now a grandfather, locked up.

"Over 20 years, it's almost $500,000 we've spent to lock up this man who doesn't pose a threat to anybody," Dogan said.

Last year KCTV5 was there as Mizanskey's son Chris and other family members dropped off more than 370,000 signatures to the governor's office asking for clemency. The new effort of a bill to legislate freedom caught Chris by surprise.

"It's amazing, I feel great, I think good things are coming and the right people are behind us," he said.

Mizanskey's son holds on to hop that his dad will finally come home.

A Rockhurst University criminal justice professor told KCTV5's Eric Chaloux that this is a very rare occurrence that a bill is written to help one person.

Kenneth Balusek wrote:

“The bill being proposed by Rep. Dogan is indeed a rare occurrence. Rarely do we see bills introduced or passed that tend to benefit only one person or a small group of people. Apparently the bill would apply to anyone currently serving a life sentence without parole for a marijuana offense. However, Rep. Dogan states that the bill would require the release of Jeff Mizanskey. It appears that the real purpose of the bill is to win the release of Mr. Mizanskey. Regardless of whether or not the life sentence was fair or not, and not considering whether the life sentence should be reduced, making and passing laws that benefit only one person or a small group of people is not sound law-making practice. This could set a dangerous precedence that has the potential for abuse in the future.”

If the bill doesn't work, Mizanskey still has a clemency petition before the governor. A letter was sent to the governor signed by 30 lawmakers asking for Mizanskey's release.

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